This month, the 100th anniversary of Benedict XV’s writing on mission, we are celebrating an “Extraordinary Missionary Month.”
This month’s edition of the video is presented in the framework of the beginning of the Extraordinary Missionary Month (EMM)—#MissionaryOctober—convoked by Pope Francis “with the aim of fostering an increased awareness of the missio ad gentes and taking up again with renewed fervour the missionary transformation of the Church’s life and pastoral activity.”
The Pontifical Mission Societies have echoed the words of the Holy Father, who has expressed the desire that this missionary month may be “an intense and fruitful occasion of grace, and promote initiatives and above all prayer, the soul of all missionary activity.”
There are regions in which the Church is still nascent and needs special support—mission territories, as they are called. Currently, there are 1,109 such territories located in Africa, Asia and the islands of Oceania, and the Americas. It’s estimated that 37% of the Universal Church is mission territory; that is to say, more than a third of the Catholic Church. This situation implies work that is in constant evolution, since as new territories are created, new social, educational, and pastoral institutions are assigned to cover all kinds of needs. An enormous portion of the Church’s social and educational work is carried out in mission territories.
In this video message, Francis proposes “reaching the peripheries—the human, cultural, and religious settings still foreign to the Gospel.”
It is a universal call for all to announce the Gospel as missionary disciples. This renewed impulse, however, does not mean engaging in “proselytism,” but rather communicating life: “God, his divine life, his merciful love, his holiness! It is the Holy Spirit who sends us, accompanies us and inspires us. He is the source of our mission.”
The starting point of the missionary endeavor is the joy of the Gospel, and Francis explains that it must be proclaimed with respect for the cultures and traditions of all people, with the awareness that “the soul of the mission is prayer.”
Fr. Frédéric Fornos, SJ, International Director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (which includes the Eucharistic Youth Movement), emphasizes that “the mission is not, in fact, a duty or an obligation, but a joyful abundance that overflows from our baptism, from our new life in Christ, and which we cannot help but share.”
In his monthly prayer intention and at the beginning of this Extraordinary Missionary Month, Francis prays that “the Holy Spirit may engender a new missionary spring for all those baptized and sent by Christ’s Church,” members of a “pilgrim Church [which is] missionary by nature.”
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